POPHAM, Alexander (1729-1810), of Monkton, Som. and Lincoln's Inn Fields, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 18 July 1729, o. s. of Rev. Alexander Popham, rector of West Monkton, nr. Taunton, Som. by cos. Mary, da. and coh. of Thomas Gatchell of Monkton, clerk in Chancery. educ. Balliol, Oxf. 1746, BA (All Souls) 1751; M. Temple 1746, called 1755; I. Temple 1761. m. 1da.
Auditor of north parts, duchy of Lancaster Apr. 1782-July 1810; commr. of taxes 1783-4; bencher, M. Temple 1785, reader 1793, treasurer 1800; master in Chancery 1786-1802.
Recorder, Wells 1766-7, 1776-d.
Capt. Som. militia 1768, lt.-col. 1784-7.
Popham, best known as a gaol reformer and friend of John Howard, was returned for Taunton for the fourth time in 1790 and continued to support Pitt’s administration. His enthusiasm for the removal of dissenters’ disabilities had waned by 1791, and his main interest was the introduction of a Poor Law amendment bill, which he admitted to a thin House on the second reading (16 Feb. 1791) had ‘no general principle’, but provided for the payment of the unemployed out of poor relief if they worked on the roads. This bill, alleged to be ‘too strong in many parts to be made practicable’, was much amended in committee and lost for the session, 26 May. He evidently did not pursue it himself afterwards. In June 1791 he was tipped for a Welsh judgeship if there were a legal reshuffle. On 15 Apr. Richard Pepper Arden* had complained of him to Lord Kenyon:
I understand Popham went away from the House of Commons on Tuesday evening [12 Apr.] and it is not known that he paired off. Now as it is of the utmost importance that our majority should not decrease I know of no-one who would be more likely to prevail upon him to stay this evening than yourself ...
In 1795 he twice voted with the minority, against the imperial loan, 5 Feb., and for Sumner’s amendment on the Prince of Wales’s debts, 1 June. On 20 Mar. 1796 he proposed a clause in amendment of the bill to regulate corn grinding, whereby millers should be obliged to grind on request, and on 12 Apr., on the same subject, he suggested that standard weights and measures should be required and millers paid in cash not kind, to prevent abuses. In January 1796 he gave notice of his retirement. On 18 Mar. Charles Abbot noted in his diary, ‘No business in the House of Commons; but Popham an old MP represented to me that I was disorderly in wearing my spurs in the House, as none but county Members were entitled to that privilege.’1
He died 13 Oct. 1810, clearly a conscientious man of charitable disposition. He left £80,000, most of it to his grandson Alexander Wadham Wyndham.2